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Los Suns Owner Robert Sarver is Los Cool…

May 4, 2010 2 comments

I’ve made a fairly conscientious decision not to talk about the Suns thus far in the playoffs. In part that’s because the opportunity just hasn’t really presented itself, in part it’s because the last time I wrote about them – like the utter and total moron that I am – I pronounced them dead, but mostly it’s because you just don’t talk to the pitcher during a no hitter…

But, this, well, this is a good reason to talk about the Suns. Robert Sarver, whom if I’ve ever spoken of him, I’ve spoken of him poorly (I seem to have some distant memories of the word cheap being uttered once or twice…), has done something remarkable. Sarver has taken a stand. Other than Mark Cuban, who blogs loudly and incessantly about anything and everything, I cannot remember an owner ever taking a public stance on anything other than schilling for public stadium funds.

Sarver however has taken a very public political stance against Arizona’s recently passed state law that makes it a misdemeanor for immigrants to be in Arizona without proper documents. On Wednesday night, when Phoenix tips off against the Spurs in game two of their Western Conference series, the Suns will be wearing their “Los Suns” jerseys. The purpose of the gesture is to raise attention to the recently passed law, while paying homage to the Latin community on Cinco de Mayo. To me, this is nothing short of remarkable.

So often we criticize our public figures for not taking a stance on political issues. Of course, what we are really criticizing them for is not taking the stance we want on political issues. However, in any debate there is at best two sides, which means that a public figure risks offending large swaths of his viewing public by taking a public position. While the Arizona bill has been roundly criticized outside of Arizona, it surely has large pockets of support within the state (it was, after all, signed off on by the governor – who presumably worries about the pulse of the electorate). So, by publicly taking a stance against the law, Sarver risks ostracizing season ticket holders. He also risks dividing his crowd during his team’s most important series of the season.

What he gains however, is showing the rest of his fans that he is a man of principle. The law allows police officers to request proof of status if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. It is of course that nebulous term, “reasonable suspicion” that is at the crux of Sarver and other’s concern. As that wise sage, the South African born, Canadian citizen, current US resident Steve Nash said,

“I think the law is very misguided. I think it’s, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it’s very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us.”

Sarver surely has the governor’s phone number. He could have just placed a phone call to voice his discontent, but instead he brought this issue to the most public forum at his disposal. Phoenix GM Steve Kerr simply stated,

“We just felt like it was important,” Kerr said. “We’re in the public eye and this is obviously a huge issue. We acknowledge there are two sides to the issue and there are a lot of dynamics. It’s a difficult thing to sift through and there are going to be differing opinions. But what we’re focusing on is we want to celebrate the diversity that exists in our state and the diversity that exists in the NBA, make sure that people understand that we know what’s going on and we don’t agree with the law itself.”

Even his opponent tomorrow night is supporting him,

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said his team was interested in taking part but couldn’t get new “Los Spurs” road jerseys in time for the game.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” Popovich said. “because it kind of shows what we all should be about. Sure there needs to be a lot of work done, obviously. A lot of administrations have done nothing about the immigration deal and now everybody’s paying the price, especially a lot of people in Arizona. That’s a bad thing, but the reaction is important, too, and this reaction [the Arizona law], I believe with Mr. Sarver, is inappropriate.”

So, please Mr Sarver, take a bow. This is a proud moment for you and your franchise. Look, Sports on the Brain isn’t a political blog and I had no real intention of taking a stance on a political issue 2,500 kilometers from my stomping ground, but Sarver has taken a stand and for that I think we should applaud him. Of course, maybe I just think that because he took a political stand that I support…

Lament of the Phoenix Part One…

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The Suns lost another road game last night. It was their sixth loss in their last eight games and it dropped their road record to 9-15. The loss means the Suns currently sit in seventh place, with Memphis half a game behind, and another three teams a single game out of that final playoff spot. Granted, the Suns are also just a game away from being in fourth place in the conference, such is the nature of the Western Cofnerence this year, but they’re moving in the wrong direction.

After the outlandish expectations that accompanied the Suns’ 14-3 start, it would appear that the playoffs are a rapidly fading dream. Worse, the prospect that the Suns will miss the playoffs, or at best be a first round patsy, and then lose Amare Stoudemire this summer is making the team antsy to move their mercurial forward.

We all know that the “seven seconds or less” era is dead. The Suns still play open, offensive basketball, only they don’t race up court the way that they used to, and the championship potential they had from 2004-2007 is gone, but… moving Stoudemire would be like the signing of “Hark! From The Tombs A Doleful Sound,” with only the eulogy (Steve Nash’s departure) left in the Suns’ funeral.

It’s popular to blame Suns owner Robert Sarver for the demise of the Suns and frankly, it’s also accurate. Sarver’s cheapness boggles my mind. I mean, why own a franchise, if you’re just going to let the most exciting team since the late eighties shrivel and die by selling draft picks and watching costs closer than Victoria Beckham watches calories.

Still, Sarver isn’t the only one to blame in this tragic demise. There’s also the men who make the actual basketball decisions. Sure, Sarver was strict in his demand to keep the payroll around 65 million, but that doesn’t excuse the signing of Marcus Banks, and it doesn’t excuse allowing Eddie House to leave after a season in which he averaged 9.8 points in only 17 minutes of action. Worst of all, it doesn’t excuse Brian Colangelo and his successor, Steve Kerr, from selling all of those draft picks.

Yes, the owner wanted to save money, but young players are cost effective and the job of the GM is to explain to an irrational owner why keeping Luol Deng, Rajon Rondo, and Rudy Fernandez made fiscal sense. For instance, in the summer that the Suns drafted Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez, they sold both, to Boston and Portland respectively, for approximately five million and then used those savings to sign Marcus Banks to an absurd 5 year 21.3 million contract. A year later, when he was playing a paltry ten minutes a game, they couldn’t get give Banks away and eventually used him as salary filler in the Shawn Marion-Shaq trade.

This is a full list of the draft picks that the Suns traded away during the last five seasons:

Luol Deng (7th), 2004 to the Bulls for a future draft pick (21st pick the following season).

Nate Robinson (21st), 2005 to the Knicks as a throw in of the Quentin Richardson – Kurt Thomas deal.

Marcin Gortat (57th), 2005 to the Magic for future considerations (or, in other words, nothing).

Rajon Rondo (21st), 2006 to the Celtics along with Brian Grant’s contract for cash considerations and Cleveland’s future 1st rounder.

Sergio Rodriguez (27th), 2006 to Portland for cash considerations.

Rudy Fernandez (24th), 2007 to Portland along with James Jones for… wait for it… cash considerations.

Serge Ibaka ((24th), 2008 to The Zombie Sonics for Kurt Thomas.

Unknown (?), 2010 to The Zombie Sonics for Kurt Thomas.

Now, those seven players aren’t winning you a championship (and the 2010 pick is probably not going to be John Wall), but Rondo’s a budding allstar, Deng’s a solid starter, Fernandez is a preeminent sixth man, and the others are solid to decent bench pieces. And, more importantly, each is an asset that could have been used during Phoenix’s protracted attempts to acquire Kevin Garnett.

Before we get too far, it should be made clear that many of those picks were the Suns’, because they’d previously traded a pick, so they couldn’t have had all of those guys, but with a few simple moves they could have done this:

Don’t trade Deng, well at least not for the Chicago pick. Not trading Deng would have meant the Suns wouldn’t have had the cap space to sign Quentin Richardson, which means they never trade Richardson and the Bulls’ pick to New York for Kurt Thomas (although I think Thomas was a worthy warrior, just not a 9 million a year warrior). Thus, they never have to trade two picks to the Seattle Zombie Sonics for taking Thomas off their payroll.

Now, after Deng’s rookie year, his stock was high. He looked like a superstar. After that year, if the Suns had committed to Joe Johnson, as they should have, they could have moved Deng to Atlanta for Boris Diaw and the Lakers’ pick, which Atlanta owned from a previous deal, they might have even been able to get more, but for the sake of argument we’ll just go with that deal. That pick became the 21st in the 2006 draft, which the Suns used on Rajon Rondo. Now, trading Rondo to Boston was perhaps the worst move the Suns made during this entire process, so we just aren’t going to do that.

Instead, because the Suns don’t trade Rondo to Boston, they wouldn’t have had the 24th pick in the 2007 draft, but they could have swapped their 29th choice for the 24th, a second rounder, and some other small piece (cash, future picks, whatever). Why would we do this? Because the 24th pick was Rudy Fernandez and the 29th was Alando Tucker. Just saying…

(This post was really frickin’ long, so I broke it in two…)

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